Inaugural Veterans Classic features MSU, VCU, Tennessee and Navy

Donnie Tyndall (Tennessee Athletics/
Donnie Tyndall and Tennessee will be among the participants in the inaugural Veterans Classic. (Provided by UT Athletics)

College basketball fans have been blessed with an increasing number of really good early-season events to enhance the non-conference buffet of viewing options.

And we're getting another.

The creation of the Veterans Classic at the Naval Academy was announced Monday, and figures to be a terrific, annual four-team fixture. CBS Sports Network will broadcast the two games held on Friday, Nov. 14, next season. That's the first day of games for the 2014-15 college hoops season. Tennessee and VCU will tip at 6:30 p.m. ET, and Michigan State and Navy will follow.

Plans are in place to hold this event in Annapolis, Md., through 2017, rotating in three other teams (Navy being the constant) in the coming years. If all goes well, this could be a longstanding college basketball tradition: two games held around Veterans Day to honor American military service. In that vein, it replaces the fleeting concept of holding games on aircraft carriers.

In fact, it was the aircraft carrier games that sparked Navy's idea to host this event.

"We are very excited to be hosting the inaugural Veterans Classic at the Naval Academy," Navy coach Ed DeChellis said. "This event will honor all veterans that served our country and our campus serves as a constant reminder of the importance of service. We are pleased to be able to showcase the Naval Academy during the week of Veterans Day with this event."

The event marks the first games that will be covered on CBS Sports Network next season.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to play in some amazing venues and be part of some great events, but the one thing I’ve always felt was missing was the chance to play at one of our service academies," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "I’m excited to expose my team to the realities of life at the Naval Academy. ... We are honored to take part in an event honoring our Veterans, and to be playing at a place that has produced some of our country’s great leaders. And for me, I’m glad to have another opportunity to coach against my friend Ed DeChellis, a coach for whom I have the utmost respect. ”

The teams will do more than just arrive and play. They'll get tours of the Naval Yard and see what life is like for Naval officers -- both in training and those who have served. The experience, sights and sounds of the teams' involvement will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network on Nov. 14 as well.

"We are excited to collaborate with the Naval Academy to honor our veterans and celebrate the beginning of the college basketball season with this annual event,” senior vice president of CBS Sports programming Dan Weinberg said. “With three 2014 NCAA Tournament teams, we look forward to tipping off the season with a great night of college basketball.”

Michigan State, Tennessee and VCU made the NCAA Tournament last year, with the former two reaching the second weekend. The Volunteers are now coached by Donnie Tyndall, who was hired away from Southern Miss in April.

“First of all, I’m appreciative of Tennessee having the opportunity to be part of an event like this,"  Tyndall said. "This is something that I believe our fans can be excited about, and it’s also going to be a great opportunity for our players -- not only to provide a challenging test for our team early in the season, but also to give them a better appreciation of what life is like for the young men and women who attend our service academies."

Going forward, it's the goal of Navy to host this doubleheader on Veterans Day. With the holiday falling on a Tuesday this year, and the first day of the season being the following Friday, it will serve as the tip-off to the season.

"We are very appreciative to be part of an event that both honors the armed services and provides our student-athletes with a terrific learning experience," VCU coach Shaka Smart said. "The opportunity to compete against a high caliber program in Tennessee is something we're grateful for as well."

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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